The Great Stone House on my grandfather’s Twin Meadows Farm was my favorite of all the places I’ve lived. It had large rooms, and once the Gerharts moved out, I had my own bedroom and a year-round playroom. Add in a finished basement and a real spooky attic (I loved to go there during the day but never at night) and it had plenty of places for a three-year-old growing into an eight-year-old to play.
But that’s not all. As realtors are wont to say: “Location! Location! Location!”
It was on a farm. I had a huge yard to play in (I still fondly recall playing croquet when relatives came over), as well as fields to explore and barns to get into trouble in, not to mention all the animals. My grandmother tried to teach me how to milk a cow by hand (a talent that eluded me; I thought the milk machines were the way to go), and she’d take me with her as she collected the eggs from the hen houses. Yes, we had two of those.
And when harvest time came around, I really enjoyed going along on the baling rounds. I wasn’t any help, of course, but I assume I knew enough not to get in the way as the bales came out of the baler and the men (usually including Miles Troutman, who was my great uncle, though I didn’t realize it at the time) stacked them on the flat bed wagon.
So there were lots of reasons to love farm living in general and the Great Stone House in particular. It did have its down sides, as I learned when I started school. It wasn’t very convenient to have schoolmates stop over after school. Oh, well.
Anyway, we moved away when I was eight, first to a rented house in Womelsdorf for a few months so I could finish second grade with my classmates, and then to Richland in June of 1957.
Sometime when I was about ten, I guess, I went to spend a few days and nights with my grandparents. They lived in the brick house on the farm, which had its own charms. But something was definitely amiss, as I was no longer allowed free rein on the farm. My movements were severely constricted as to where I could go and what I could do. Worst of all, I wasn’t allowed to go baling anymore. I’m pretty sure it was my mother who had laid down the conditions for my visit.
Needless to say, those conditions severely dampened my enthusiasm for the farm. I don’t think I ever stayed overnight with my grandparents again. But their health was no longer the best and a few years later they sold the farm and moved to Womelsdorf, where they died in 1965 and 66.
But sometime in the 70s, when I was living in Richland again, I thought it would be fun to pay a visit to the farm and see if the current inhabitants would let me take a peek inside the Great Stone House to see if and how it had changed since my childhood.
The Twin Meadows Farm was only accessible via dirt roads, and was well off the beaten path, so strangers dropping by were not a regular occurrence. But I recalled from my time there that we did occasionally get strangers dropping by, a traveling salesman, for example. I figured I could just drive in, park next to the barn, where there was ample parking space, and then knock on the door of the Great Stone House, and introduce myself. Easy peasy. At least I think that was the plan. Maybe I didn’t even have a plan.
In any event I found myself turning left off Route 422 next to a miniature golf course (it’s no longer there), then immediately making a right onto the dirt road, which, after about a quarter mile forked into two, a paved road to the right (it’s named Bunker Hill Road) and a continuation of the dirt road to the left. I went left.
I drove past the meadow where I had had the mishap with the sled all those years ago as the dirt road swerved sharply to the left, and now I was driving past one of the meadows that gave the farm its name. As I approached the barns, I swung right toward the Great Stone House, and there, sitting on the large back porch was a group of adults and children.
For some reason I was not expecting that and it unnerved me. I’m not sure why.
But instead of stopping and introducing myself, I gunned the accelerator and kept going on the dirt road to take me to out the back way.
There was only one problem: there was no dirt road there anymore! I was now driving over the plain dirt of a field. Luckily, it was dry ground, so I didn’t get stuck in the mud, so I managed to drive off the property until I reached the road.
I wonder what those people thought I was doing?